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Not-So-Bland Conversation Starters To Use During Sylly Week

You sit down in a new class. Someone sits down next to you. Suddenly there’s this awkward tension. Either you’re going to sit there in silence and complain to your mom after class about how you have no friends or you take a risk and start talking to your new neighbor and potential friend.

“What’s your major?”

“What year are you?”

“Where are you from?”

“Where are you living?”

Then, nothing. Dead silence. That’s it, and you’re back to staring at The Weather App on your phone until the professor begins their lecture. How are you really supposed to get to know somebody from just those four questions? You need better questions! Well, we’re here to help you out. Here are a few questions you can ask the new face sitting next to you in class this week.

What makes you happy in Happy Valley?

This is a good way to find out what your fellow classmate likes to do and what they enjoy here at Penn State or in the State College area.

If you couldn’t go to Penn State, where would you have gone?

If they answer you with Pitt, Michigan, or Ohio State, just do yourself a favor and pick up your backpack and move to the other side of the class.

Are your parents proud of you? Why or why not?

Tapping into the emotions of the person sitting next to you is one way to quickly form a strong bond. Get them to open up about themselves and what drives them. Bonus points if you can get them to cry in your arms before class even starts.

What is your favorite color…of Penn State merch?

This is just a more spirited take on the classic “What’s your favorite color?” question. Remember, Penn State merch doesn’t just come in blue and white. There is gray, black, tan, and even green Penn State attire out there.

How many bros in a hot tub is too many bros in a hot tub? (The hot tub is a standard-sized hot tub, of course)

This is a silly goose question to get things started, however, the answer could be important.

What did you want to be when you were a kid? Why did you let go of that dream?

Chances are that what they wanted to be as a kid isn’t what they’re studying to become now. Find out why you’re new friend isn’t striving to become a superhero or an astronaut anymore.

If you had to keep just one streaming service, which one would you keep?

This is, personally, my favorite question to ask people. You really get to know who they are and what they like from this one simple question.

Are you in a relationship? (A follow-up question could be: “Can I get your number?”)

Speaking from experience, it’s often intelligent to get this question out of the way on the first day. You want to know who you can and can’t fall in love with before it’s too late. The heart needs to know what it can’t want because it can’t have.

What is your biggest regret in life?

Get deep on the first day. Let’s stop waiting until months into this newfound friendship to discuss where you went wrong in life.

Are you allergic to anything?

This is an especially useful question to ask if you are an avid consumer of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in your lectures.

What shoe size do you wear?

This is the perfect, light-hearted conversation start to get off on the right foot.

How do you think the football team will do this year?

Nothing like some good ol’ fashioned sports banter to kill the silence. If they don’t say undefeated, what kind of Penn Stater are they really?

Are you interested in joining Onward State?

If they say yes, applications are open! You can apply here. If they say no, never sit next to them again.

Next time you sit next to someone new or even meet someone at a social gathering, give one of these questions a shot to keep things a little more interesting than your basic icebreakers.

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About the Author

Rico Gore

Rico is a senior advertising major from Pittsburgh who has been with Onward State since just a couple weeks into his freshman year. He loves to drink Diet Coke and eat Mexican food. You can follow Rico on Instagram @RealBigRico and TikTok @RealBigRico.

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